Riga is the capital of Latvia and is also called the Pearl of the Baltic. The city of Riga is located on the lower reaches of the Düna River, and the northern suburban districts of Riga are located on the Riga Bay. Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States with more than 700,000 inhabitants. This trade metropolis was built at the crossroads of many trade routes and, as a multicultural center, has much to offer in the way of sightseeing. Each century has left its own traces in the course of time, which can still be seen in the architecture of the old town. In 1997, the city of Riga was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its special Art Nouveau architecture.
Tip 1: House of the Blackheads
The Blackhead House, also known as Riag’s “Artus Court”, is undoubtedly the most impressive building on the Town Hall Square. Its facade is decorated in the Dutch-Flemish style and is adorned by an azure astronomical clock. The house was built in 1330 by the city for the guilds. The Brotherhood of Blackheads, an association of single young merchants, used the house for festivities and events in the beginning. This brotherhood existed only in Old Livonia (Estonia and Latvia). In 1713 the building finally became the property of the “Company of Black Heads”.
Its name “Black Heads” is due to its dark-skinned patron saint, St. Mauritius. The symbol of the patron saint, the moor’s head, can still be found in the coat of arms of the brotherhood. The building, built in the Gothic style, was rebuilt several times over the centuries. Between 1619 and 1629, for example, the Blackheads had the simple stepped gable decorated with statues and animal figures, following the example of Dutch merchants’ palaces. The coats of arms of various Hanseatic cities can also be seen in the facade.
Tip 2: St. Peter’s Church
Its 136-meter-high octagonal tower was considered the tallest structure in Europe at that time in the 15th century. Today you can take an elevator to the observation deck, 71 meters high, and enjoy the view over Riga.
St. Peter’s Church was first mentioned in 1209 as the parish church of the city of Riga. It was originally built as a simple hall building. It was not until the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries that it was generously expanded, and since then it has been considered the greatest achievement of Gothic architecture in the Baltic region. The reason for the expansion of the church was the desire of the citizens of the municipality to have an even more imposing church than the archbishop. So the Rostock master builder Johann Rumeschottel was hired. He extended the church with a French choir, a choir end with a chapel crown, and increased the nave to the height of 30m, giving the church the shape of a basilica.
During the reconstruction after World War 2, the wooden tower structure was replaced by a steel one by the architects Zirnis and Saulītis. The vaults of the nave were reconstructed in reinforced concrete and what was preserved of the interior was restored. The 70m high baroque tower dome is still one of the most prominent structures on Riga’s skyline. An elevator takes you up to the second tower platform, from where you have a magnificent view over the roofs of Riga. On top of the church spire sits a large golden rooster, the “Petergailis”, which in Latvia is a symbol of the unswerving will to rebuild.
Tip 3: Three Brothers
The ‘Three Brothers’ is the name of the oldest residential building ensemble in Riga. This is located in Maza Pils iela. The name ‘Tris brali’ (‘Three Brothers’) was given to the buildings because of the similarity with the name of the ‘Tris masam’ (‘Three Sisters’). This is the name of a group of warehouses located in the Old Town of Tallinn. The oldest of the three residential buildings was built at the end of the 15th century and is located at Maza Pils iela 17.
At that time the city of Riga had started contacts with the Netherlands with the Dutch merchants. Therefore, the city architecture from that period reflects the features typical of the Dutch Renaissance. In front of the house there is a small square used for the entrance to the house, with stone benches and facing stones. In the stones were carved property signs and the house address. The buildings located at Maza Pils iela 19 and 21 are of recent origin. The houses, which are called the ‘Three Brothers’, represent different phases of development of the medieval building styles.
Tip 4: Riga Central Market
The five imposing market halls characterize the cityscape of the Latvian capital like hardly any other sight. At the time of its construction, the Riga Central Market was the largest and most modern market in Europe. Today it is still well frequented: 80,000 people shop here every day. But food was not always offered for sale under the roofs of the pavilions: During World War I, the halls served the Prussian Army as hangars for its airships.
Today, hardly any tourist misses a visit to the colorful market hustle and bustle and comes across unusual culinary delicacies and specialties such as fried lampreys in aspic, pork cheeks and birch sap. Since the prices are often lower than in the supermarket, however, it is mainly the locals who do their daily shopping here. As modest as the market’s furnishings may seem, the greater is the range of goods on offer. Fresh produce piles up seven days a week on a total area of ten soccer fields. In each of the pavilions, a different product lends the place a special atmosphere, be it wriggling fish, mountains of meat or vegetables, and refrigerated counters full of dairy products. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, you can continue your hustle and bustle outdoors. Between seasonal fruit and vegetables, cheap clothes and consumer electronics of questionable origin, handicrafts and Soviet memorabilia, everyone is sure to find a suitable souvenir or souvenir.
Tip 5: Art Nouveau in Riga
Riga is the undisputed capital of Art Nouveau in Europe. You can admire over 800 Art Nouveau buildings in Riga. Most of the Art Nouveau buildings in the port city were built in a tiny window of time between 1900 and 1910. At the beginning of the last century, the rapidly growing boomtown of Riga must have been a veritable El Dorado for the architects of Art Nouveau. Because the prospering industrial city needed one thing above all: houses!
That’s why you can admire Art Nouveau architecture all over Riga. From the city center to the outskirts. On every walk through Riga you will always discover buildings with the typical floral Art Deco ornaments. Lush flowers and intricate vines proliferate along the walls of houses. Decorative lashes twitch across the facades. Lots of sexy, naked flesh lolls beneath balconies.